Policy in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) in England has undergone radical changes in the last 15 years, with far reaching implications for funding models, access to services and service delivery. Using corpus analysis and critical discourse analysis, we explore how childhood, mental health, and CAMHS are constituted in 15 policy documents, 9 pre-2010, and 6 post 2010. We trace how these constructions have changed over time, and consider the practice implications of these changes. We identify how children’s distress is individualised, through medicalising discourses and shifting understandings of the relationship between socioeconomic context and mental health. This is evidenced in a shift from seeing children’s mental health challenges as produced by social and economic inequities, to a view that children’s mental health must be addressed early to prevent future socio-economic burden. We consider the implications CAMHS policies for the relationship between children, families, mental health services and the state. The paper concludes by exploring how concepts of ‘parity of esteem’ and ‘stigma reduction’ may inadvertently exacerbate the individualisation of children’s mental health.
- Child and adolescent mental health
- health inequalities
- parity of esteem